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Court gets mixed opinion on sanity

Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler will seek a second psychologist’s opinion after a rare finding in a Rule 20 hearing for a man accused of running over and killing a rest stop area worker in June 2013.

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Pertler said a psychologist found that Gregory Allen Scherber, 55, was found to be both unable to tell right from wrong at the time he was alleged to have struck and killed Mahtowa rest stop janitor Greg “Blackie” Blackburn last June 19, and stabilized enough psychologically since that time to be able to cooperate in a trial setting.

Scherber was charged on June 21, 2013 with criminal vehicular homicide and fleeing a peace officer in connection with the incident.

“Usually, that’s the kind of finding you only see on television,” Pertler said after Scherber appeared before Judge Robert E. Macaulay last Thursday in a short Rule 20 hearing that lasted about 10 minutes.

“It’s an uncommon and unusual occurrence,” Pertler said of the findings. “It’s not that I disagree with the findings and it’s not that I imply I disagree. It’s just unusual to have them in that combination.”

Not knowing right from wrong at the time of the incident might allow Scherber a potential criminal defense if and when the case comes to trial.

In court, Pertler said he would seek a second opinion on Scherber’s mental state at the time of the incident.

“It’s just the thing to do from the standpoint of best practices,” he added. “We’re talking about an offense that could lead to life in prison (if Scherber is convicted). It’s a good idea to have a second set of eyes on this.”

Macaulay agreed, and a new hearing was set for Feb. 26.

Scherber is accused of running down and killing Blackburn with his pickup truck at the Mahtowa rest stop on I-35 and then leading officers on an approximately 25-mile chase which ended in Hermantown.

Police reports indicated that the chase, which reached speeds near 100 miles per hour, eventually ended at the intersection of Stebner and Arrowhead roads.

Scherber has been at the Anoka Regional Treatment Center, which is a secure, state-run facility, on a “restore to capacity” civil commitment order. Charges against him have been on hold until he is shown to be mentally competent to stand trial.